Turkey is a land brimming with history. It’s a perfect place to travel on an archaeological tour or historical holiday.
From Bronze Age burials to Ottoman minarets, Roman baths to Crusader castles, Turkey has it all. Part of the Fertile Crescent, it was one of the first lands to witness the birth of agriculture, the domestication of animals, and the rise of city living.
It has been repeatedly settled by colonists and overrun by conquering armies for thousands of years. It has experienced the passage of the world’s greatest generals: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Tamerlane. Equally it has been home to some of the very greatest artists: architects, philosophers, poets, sculptors, and writers – Sinan, Thales of Miletus, Homer, Praxiteles, and Herodotus, to name but a few.
Turkey truly is a crossroads of civilisations. Here’s a very brief overview of some of the key moments in its history.
Turkey: A Brief Timeline
| 6500 –
|| Asia Minor is inhabited by Neolithic tribes. Foundation of Troy about 3000 BC.
||Hittites, possibly from the Caucasus found a kingdom in Anatolia (approx. 1750 BC) lasting until 1200 BC when the “Sea peoples” ravage the Mediterranean.
||Around 658 BC Byzantium (Constantinople/Istanbul) is founded as a Greek colony. At a vitally strategic point on the maritime route between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, it soon emerges as an important city state. 546 BC invasion of the Persians, under Cyrus II. Victory of Alexander the Great over the Persians in 334 BC.
||Treaty of alliance between Byzantium and Rome. In 133 BC King Attalus of Pergamum dies without an heir and bequeaths his kingdom to Rome. Anatolia is annexed to Rome and becomes the province of Asia.
||Constantine the Great, becomes Emperor of the eastern part of the Roman Empire, and chooses Byzantium as his capital. On May 11, 330, the city is officially re-founded. While Asia Minor is already partially converted to Christianity following the travels of St. Paul, it is only under Constantine that Christianity becomes a legalised and official religion of the Roman/Byzantine Empire. The fall of Rome confirms the importance of the eastern capital, now known as Constantinople. From the 7th century onwards, the Byzantine Empire waxes and wanes under pressure from Arab advance.
||Nomadic Seljuk tribes move into Anatolia and set up an empire straddling the Middle East. In 1204 Catholic Crusaders sack Constantinople destroying many buildings and plundering artworks, making off with them to Venice where some remain to this day.
||Mehmet II, leader of the Ottoman Turkish tribes, captures Constantinople in 1453, and makes it his capital. Stretching from Africa to the Balkans, the Empire reaches its greatest extent with the conquests of Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566), who is finally repulsed from the gates of Vienna. Crimean War (1853-56) with English and French fighting Russia on the side of the Turks.
||Beginning of the “Young Turk” revolutionary movement resulting in the emergence of Mustafa Kemal (known as Ataturk or “Father of the Turks”) as national leader. 1923 Proclamation of the Turkish Republic, with Ataturk as President. He undertakes numerous reforms, including the adoption of the Latin alphabet, and rapidly modernises the country. He moves the capital from Istanbul (officially given the name in 1930) to Ankara, in the geographic centre of the country. Turkey is neutral in World War II and joins NATO in 1952.